Monday, October 31, 2011

Divali: The Festival of Lights

[Diya or oil lamp]
[Clay pots are filled with vegetable oil or ghee and a wick is placed inside]

Divali, known as Diwali, Devali, and Deepavali may possibly be considered the most important holiday amongst Hindus. Divali means: Row of lighted lamps. Candles and oil lamps are lit to burn off evil and welcome to Laksmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In India, if someone is wealthy it's often considered to be a reward for good deeds they have done in a past lives.
[Laksmi -  Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity]
In an effort to welcome the Goddess, homes are cleaned, and sometimes even painted (as in the case of my neighbor) in preparation. Special sweets are prepared that you often can't find any other time during the year. New clothes will be purchased and worn and special prayers said. The objective is the offer special prayers of thanks to Laksmi for the riches you incurred in the past year and to pray for riches in the coming year.
Fireworks are also a big part of the celebration. Not only can you buy just about anything to blast off on your own, but villages put on their own displays that go on for several nights The streets are littered with firecracker wrappers and sparkler sticks in the days leading up to and following Divali. No one is immune from the celebrations happening and it's a festive atmosphere everywhere you turn. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why I love Indian Children

Compared to the US, so many people in India are going without. Without many things we consider basic essentials. Adequate water supplies. Electricity. Needed medical attention. If the rules of the jungle apply anywhere, it's here. India is the jungle.
That being said, I'm not sure I've ever seen happier children. Rather then being plugged into computers and gaming systems, they find creative ways to spend their time. Utilizing household items to entertain themselves, they stay busy for hours. Here are some recent examples.
Dhoni (Ramu and Lakshmi's son) had a blast playing with a homemade kite constructed of string and a plastic shopping bag. He wasn't the only one who enjoyed it!

Keeping a tire rolling by hitting it with a stick is something I'd only seen in the movies. I figured it was a game played before the invention of matchbox cars and barbie dolls, but alas, it's alive and well in India, and clearly a lot of fun!

On every lane, you'll find pick up games of cricket, each child dreaming of becoming the next M S Dhoni or Sachin Tendulkar. The other day the kids in my lane were even playing a game "frisbee" using a rubber gasket. The creativity seen is inspiring. These kids are enjoying life to the fullest without the need to be plugged in to the latest gaming system, blasting away at their opponent. There's no feeling of going without, or jealousy over who has what. At least not from what I've seen. These kids are genuinely happy.
Maybe it's true that less is really more.